Craig Breen 1990 – 2023

Craig Breen 1990-2023

Motorsport Ireland wish to extend its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of World Rally Championship driver Craig Breen, who was fatally injured during an accident today while testing prior to Rally Croatia.

Craig, who was 33, was Ireland’s top rally driver and a full time professional competing with the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team in the World Rally Championship. A prodigious karter in his younger years, Breen started competing in rallying in 2006 as a co-driver before making the switch to the drivers seat in 2008. His rise thereafter was nothing short of spectacular. In 2009 he made his first foray into the World Rally Championship, winning his class and finishing 25th overall on Rally Portugal. In that same year, Craig won both the Irish and UK Fiesta Sporting Trophies, was crowned Irish National Junior Rally Champion and won the Billy Coleman Award, the youngest driver to do so. In 2010 Breen competed in the Irish and British championships and won the Pirelli Star Driver Global Shootout Final. Winning the Pirelli Star Driver Shootout afforded Breen the chance to compete in the World Rally Championship in the WRC Academy series in 2011 which he dramatically won on the final stage of the final round netting him a €500,000 prize fund. In 2012 Breen won the Super 2000 World Rally Championship despite the tragic death of his long time co-driver and friend Gareth Roberts in an accident half way through the season.

A factory seat with Peugeot was secured for 2013 and Breen would stay with the French marque for three seasons securing four European Rally Championship event wins including a memorable Circuit of Ireland win in 2015 which saw him emulate the 1992 feat of his motorsport hero, the late Frank Meagher. For the 2016 season, Breen signed with Citroen to drive in six rounds of the World Rally Championship. In his first season in a top car, in the top flight of the sport, he scored a memorable podium finish with a superb third place on Rally Finland. In 2018 Breen was on the podium again, this time going one step higher with a second place in Rally Sweden.

Without a factory contract for 2019, Breen returned to Ireland and reunited with co-driver Paul Nagle with the pair having pulled together a deal to tackle the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. They dominated the series winning the Galway, West Cork, Killarney, Easter Stages and Ulster rallies while also winning the iconic Sanremo and Ypres rallies on the continent. A call up to Hyundai half way through the season would see a return to top flight competition and despite truncated campaigns with the Korean manufacturer, Breen was always on the pace on and regularly on the podium including three consecutive podiums in three events (Estonia, Ypres and Finland) in 2021. The lure of a full time seat with M-Sport as the sport entered a new hybrid era was too much for Breen to turn down but after a strong start to the season in Monte Carlo, results were hard to come by and Breen returned to Hyundai for 2023 taking another second place on his first event back with the team in Sweden.

Whenever he got the chance, Craig still continued to compete on local events in Ireland and in recent months, support younger drivers. Earlier this year a sponsorship deal was announced that would see him directly supporting the Junior 1000 category within the Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship and as recently as last Tuesday, he attended a J1000 tuition day where 18 young drivers got to meet and learn from their hero. Craig was a model competitor and there was no greater advocate for Irish motorsport.

Speaking on today’s tragic news Motorsport Ireland President Aiden Harper said; “The Irish motorsport community is numbed by this tragic news. Craig was a world class driver and a world class person. To Craig’s family, his parents Ray and Jackie, his sister Kellie, brother in law Darragh and nephew Bobbie, I wish to extend my deepest condolences and all our thoughts remain with Craig’s co-driver James Fulton. May they all find the strength and support they need at this unimaginably tragic time.” 

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